8:41 am Jul. 28, 20111
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
The New York Post: What would you do if you'd just signed a $50 million deal with the New York Jets?
Santonio Holmes wasted little more than an hour before he took a picture of himself downing an expensive bottle of champagne and sent it out into the world.
"JET FUEL," the Post headline says, referring to Holmes and what he's guzzling.
Holmes is shirtless, the waistband of his Hanes underpants visible above his shorts, and had his picture taken by a friend, which he then tweeted out with the caption "Just finish a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal from 2002! Big bro showed loved today."
Why does this matter? Because the focus of the Post's coverage of the enormous deal is a long column by Mark Cannizzaro pointing to Holmes' four-month suspension for marijuana use. Keeping him on the straight and narrow, Cannizzaro thinks, will be tough even for Jets coach Rex Ryan, whom, Cannizzaro acknowledges, has been pretty good at disciplining his team and keeping it focused these days, after a rocky start where many of the stories about him and his team were taking place well off the field.
The picture is a little bit gross. It's the entire page, and its graininess (since it was blown up from a picture sent out over Twitter) adds to the sordidness. Somehow this doesn't look like a great fun celebration you'd want to be in the room for, as the last drops of Cristal pour down Holmes' stretched throat, and you are compelled to contemplate his underwear-tucking skills. But then, I don't think the picture was taken to be turned into a magazine cover image and I wonder if this is the topic New York sports fans, thrilled that the Jets' charismatic, game-breaking wide receiver is staying on, want to talk about today. They're too busy opening bottles of their own.
Daily News: The News, too, gives us the story in a package of two boxes along the left margin: One about the Holmes deal and a second about Carlos Beltran being traded away by the Mets. "HELLO …" reads the Holmes box, with a dek that reads "HOLMES RE-SIGNS WITH JETS." Below, a box with a picture of Beltran reads "… GOODBYE" and there's a dek that reads "BELTRAN SENT PACKIN'."
They're both fairly big sports stories, and pretty positive ones, from the Jets-and-Mets-fan perspective. (Beltran has been playing incredibly well of late and is a big short-term loss, but the non-contending Mets achieved good value from their decision to send him "packin'" to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for a young pitching prospect. Wait till next year, Philadelphia! Or maybe the year after!)
But these boxes get less than a third of the vertical space of the page. Four times as big as either of them is the big black box on the right with the knockout-white text reading "FEDS' NYPD TERROR PROBE."
There's no image—and in fact any image would probably detract from the urgency, since you wouldn't recognize the face. The dek: "9 cops called to testify about subway-bombing leaks." Billed as an exclusive in a red stripe at the bottom of the page, the story portrays the latest skirmish in the long battle between the F.B.I. and the NYPD for control of terrorism-containment in New York City.
Details are sketchy about the leaks now being investigated in a grand jury inquiry in Washington, but one previously reported dispute centered on the events of 2009, in which Queens resident Najibullah Zazi was apprehended and admitted to a plot to blow up subways: "NYPD officers in the Intelligence Division showed Zazi's picture to a Queens imam, a sometime police informant who turned around and tipped Zazi off," forcing the F.B.I. to arrest him when what they'd wanted was to observe him for longer and gather intelligence from his developing plot. There was a shakeup in the department after that. Sources tell the News that other information leaked from the Intelligence Division and the Joint Task Force to regular cops are the main point of contention.
Observations: How big is the news about Santonio Holmes? Pretty big.
If he hadn't sent out this picture of himself shirtless drinking Cristal, would the Post have given him the entire front page? Probably not.
I'm torn about it: In some ways the picture represents so perfectly what the Post is doing with the story inside that it's genius. And the image is a memorable one, and will be a universal reference point the next time Holmes gets in trouble for anything or even just causes a scene.
In other ways, though, it seems to strike the wrong mood: Are we really at the stage already where we are giving each other dire warnings about Holmes' partying? Do we get a day just to be psyched that the Jets have locked up one of the best offensive players in the game, freeing them to concentrate on their pursuit of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the game's best defensive players?
Mark Cannizzarro's column is perfectly legitimate, but I think I would like him to go away and come back with this in a week. It's just not today's story, at least if it's going to be the whole wood.
Meanwhile, while the News has, I think, frittered away its cover on small change, the event of this grand jury investigation is one of the first solid grasps we've gotten on the crucial relationship between city police and the feds. Here's hoping the News sticks with the story and fleshes out the missing details.
Winner: Daily News.